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Anthropogenic activities are causing ecological and environmental changes
around the world. Some human activities, such as pollution, may have consequences for
the health of ecosystems, plants, and animals. Heavy metal pollution, for example, has
been shown to affect the behavior of vectors for disease, such as ticks, and how they
interact with their pathogens and with humans. I examined the effect of cadmium, a
heavy metal toxic to plants, animals and humans, in forest soil on the exoskeleton of
blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis). Research in Russia has shown that cadmium
present in soil, plants and the blood of animals due to anthropogenic pollution may cause
ticks to become more active and more infectious with several tickborne diseases. Ticks
exposed to cadmium also develop dimpling in their exoskeleton. I examined the effect on
tick exoskeletons of cadmium in forest soils. I collected 270 ticks from five different sites
along the Hudson River. At each site, I analyzed soil for cadmium content and examined
ticks for exoskeletal excavation or dimpling. Though I found that many ticks had
exoskeletal anomalies, and that trace amounts of cadmium were present in the soils of
every site, I did not find that there was a significant relationship between the level of
cadmium in soil and the proportion of ticks with exoskeletal anomalies. I did find that
anomalies were more likely to occur in females than in male ticks. Further studies on the
affect of heavy metals on ticks and on the difference in effects between sexes could be
useful in furthering our understanding of tickborne disease in the Hudson Valley and in
the United States.
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Cameron, Ross Connor, "Effects of Cadmium Pollution in Forest Soil on Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis) Morphology in the Hudson Valley of New York State, USA" (2013). Senior Projects Spring 2013. 63.
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